World War Wednesday: Bacon Fat Soft Molasses Cookies from WWI
By Sarah Wassberg Johnson
via the Food History Blog web site
I first ran across bacon fat gingersnaps in the Christmas cookie collection the New York Times posted for December, 2021. Although I'm not a NYT Cooking subscriber, I did a google and found an article about the original recipe, which indicated the recipe was likely historic. Even though I'd just finished my Christmas cookies research, the bug bit again and the hunt was on.
I found several historic recipes for bacon fat cookies, some of them gingery, some of them not (scroll to the bottom for the gallery of recipes), but because I am a World War I historian, I decided that the recipe I was most interested in at the moment was the "Soft Molasses Cookies" listed as a "Conservation Recipe" in the February, 1918 issue of American Cookery, formerly the Boston Cooking School Magazine. And it seemed appropriate to be baking them in February, 2022!
The recipe is not written in a way we're used to today, but is fairly straightforward. It reads:
Put in a measuring cup four teaspoons clarified bacon fat (not browned in the least); add three teapsoonfuls boiling water, then fill the cup with N.O. [New Orleans] molasses. Add half a teaspoonful salt, half a teaspoonful ginger or spices to taste and one teaspoonful [baking] soda sifted with one cup of flour; mix and add enough more flour to make a soft dough. Roll rather thick. Cut in rounds. Bake in a moderate oven.
This recipe is sugarless, eggless, and butter-less, and it uses fats that might otherwise go to waste, making it the perfect conservation recipe during a time when Americans were asked to save wheat, sugar, meat, and fats for the war effort. The use of New Orleans molasses was specifically to save space on cargo ships and support American sugar production (molasses is a byproduct of sugar cane processing). By using bacon fat, normally a waste fat, Americans could save on lard and butter.
Read the entire article on the Food History Blog web site here:
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